Glassmann, Daniel Nathan
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This study sought to understand physical and virtual safe spaces as experienced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) college students and answer the following research questions: RQ1: How do LGB college students describe and locate physical and virtual safe spaces? RQ2: How do LGB college students use physical and virtual safe spaces to resist and/or reinforce dominant forms of sexual identity? RQ3: How do physical and virtual safe spaces affect the sexual identity development of LGB college students? A sample of 12 self-identifying LGB college students participated in this study. Each participant took 2-6 photographs to describe and represent their physical and virtual safe spaces. Using these photographs, individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted with the participants. This data was analyzed using narrative methods to identify themes related to the research questions. First, themes that illustrate how LGB college students described and located safe and unsafe spaces included (a) definitions and descriptions of safe spaces, (b) characterization of unsafe spaces, and (c) types of spaces. Second, themes that describe LGB college students’ use and behavior within safe and unsafe spaces included (a) queer(ing) spaces, (b) creating spaces, (c) changing spaces, and (d) behaving in spaces. Third, themes that related to the sexual identity development of LGB college students within safe and unsafe spaces included (a) identity depends on people and place and (b) coming out through safe spaces. Based upon the findings of this study, five conclusions emerged. These conclusions included (1) moving from safe(r) spaces to queer(ing) spaces, (2) safe and unsafe spaces depends on people and places, (3) safe and unsafe spaces affects identity development, (4) safe spaces are places for coping and finding support, and (5) blurring the boundaries of safe and unsafe spaces. Related to the findings and conclusions found in this study, implications for inclusive practice include the following areas: (1) claiming and naming spaces, (2) missions and policies, (3) developmentally appropriate safe spaces, (4) Safe Space Programs and LGB Services, (5) campus environments, (6) safe spaces for coping and finding support, and (7) inclusive classrooms and campus programs. Lastly, recommendations for further research are offered.